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25 Best Things to Do in Kyoto: Explore Bucket List Spots Like Arashiyama, Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine, Gion, and More!

Published: Jan 10 2020 Last updated: Sep 01 2022
  • Rebecca
  • Rebecca

Shrines, temples, tours, day trips... If you've started looking into a trip to Kyoto, you might be overwhelmed by how much there is to see and do here. As the capital of Japan for over 1,000 years, Kyoto has a long history as a cultural powerhouse, and you can still experience the city's historical beauty and unique traditions today. In this article, we've compiled 25 of the best things to do in Kyoto. Read on to learn about the best sightseeing spots and activities to add to your Japan bucket list!

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About Kyoto

Located in the Kansai area of Western Japan, Kyoto is one of Japan's most famous tourist destinations. As the old capital, Kyoto has a wealth of shrines, temples, historical areas, and gardens to see. At the same time, Kyoto is a modern city with plenty of shopping, gourmet dining, and entertainment options as well.

Kyoto is easy to access from Tokyo by bullet train, and is only a 30-minute train ride from Osaka. Kyoto also makes a great base for exploring the Kansai area, with the surrounding cities of Osaka, Nara, Kobe, and Japan's biggest lake, Lake Biwa, all very easy to get to from the Kyoto city center.

The climate in Kyoto can be very hot in the summer and fairly cold in the winter. The best times of the year to visit are arguably the cherry blossom season in early April, the autumn foliage period in late November, and the Gion Matsuri period in July. For obvious reasons, these are also extremely crowded periods, as are long Japanese holiday periods such as Golden Week (April 29 to early May) and Obon (mid-August). So if you're planning a trip during these times, it's best to secure all your reservations well in advance.

A good starting point for planning any visit to Kyoto is our Ultimate Kyoto Travel Guide. Here you'll find everything you need to know about where to stay, eat, shop, as well as all the info you need to get around and stay safe in Kyoto.

Explore Japan's Ancient Capital

Nijo Castle Kyoto Tour

As the capital of Japan for a thousand years, Kyoto was the home to Japan's royalty, but the Imperial Family was not the only seat of power in ancient Kyoto. The shogunate, Japan's feudal military government, held power over the country from 1185 to 1868.

Completed in 1603, Nijo Castle served as residences, offices, and reception spaces for the Tokugawa shogunate. In 1867, the last shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, declared the end of the shogunate and the return of power to the Imperial Court at this very castle. After this period, Nijo Castle was used as a detached palace of the Imperial Court before being opened to the public in 1940.

Ninomaru Palace in the Nijo Castle complex is famous for its "nightingale floors", named for the chirping sound the floorboards make when stepped upon. Ninomaru Palace is not just a site for history lovers; it's also a rare chance to see a range of decorative artworks like folding screens and wall and ceiling paintings displayed just as they were when the castle was in use by the shogunate.

This castle has a long and complex history, and was the site of some of the biggest changes in Japan's history. To properly appreciate its cultural, artistic, and historical background, we recommend seeing Nijo Castle with a guide. The 60-minute Nijo Castle Kyoto Tour via Voyagin gives you 10% off the original tour price and is both an easy and affordably-priced way to deepen your experience of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. For more information about this tour, please see the link below!


Nijo Castle Tour

Start time

10:00 am or 12:00 pm

Tour duration

60 minutes

Tour price

900 yen / person

* If you make a booking without going through Voyagin, the price is 1,000 yen / person.

Kyoto Imperial Palace and Imperial Palace Park

Kyoto was Japan's capital for over a thousand years, during which Kyoto, known as Heian-kyo at the time, flourished as a cultural and economic center. Since the capital moved to Tokyo in 1868, the Kyoto Imperial Palace has been preserved as a historical site. While some official functions are held here today, the grounds and gardens are open to the public. Inside the palace gates you'll find preserved buildings used by the Imperial Household and beautifully-crafted Japanese gardens.

In the past, visitors were required to register in advance for a tour to access the palace grounds, but today, anyone can visit without a reservation. Free tours are still available, and are worth joining to find out more about the history and architecture here. English language tours are held daily at 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. To join, just visit the Visitors Room on the right of the entrance before the tour’s start time. Click this link for more details.

While historically the area around the Imperial Palace housed residences of court nobles and were walled off to the public, today this space serves as a large public park. Measuring 1.3 kilometers from north to south, the Kyoto Imperial Palace Park is an important green space for Kyoto locals, and also has a range of small shrines, temples, and historical buildings to see. In the spring, the weeping cherry blossom grove at the north of the park is one of the more spacious and peaceful spots in Kyoto for a hanami picnic.

If you're able to secure a tour reservation, the gardens of the Kyoto Sento Imperial Palace, also located in the park, are definitely worth visiting. This palace was built at the beginning of the 17th century for the retirement of Emperor Go-Mizunoo. While the original buildings have since been lost, many consider the gardens here to be some of the most beautiful in Kyoto.

Name Kyoto Imperial Palace
Opening hours April to August: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm September, March: 9:00 am to 4:30 pm October to February: 9:00 am to 4:00 pm Last admission: 40 minutes before closing time
Closing days Please check the official website for the latest schedule.
Price Free admission
Address Kyoto Gyoen, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 京都府京都市上京区京都御苑 Google Maps
Access Around a 10-minute walk from Imadegawa Station
Website (Japanese)http://sankan.kunaicho.go.jp/index.html
Website (English)http://sankan.kunaicho.go.jp/english/index.html

Historic Temples and Shrines

Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine

Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine, with its thousand torii (shrine) gates, is one of Japan’s most iconic sights, and is definitely an unmissable stop during any visit to Kyoto. Located in the city's south, the shrine features torii gate-lined trails that lead around four kilometers up Mt. Inariyama. Along the way, you'll find lush forest and many charming sub-shrines to explore. It can take around two hours to walk up the full length of the trail, so be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes!

Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine is open 24 hours a day, so you can walk the trails in the evenings or early morning if you want a more serene experience.

This shrine enshrines Inari, a fox god said to grant blessings for things like business and harvests, so keep your eyes peeled for the cute Inari statues found all over the complex.

Name Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine
Opening hours Open 24 hours * It is unsafe to worship here at night, so we do not recommend coming at night.
Closing days None
Price Free admission
Address 68, Fukakusa Yabunouchi-cho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 京都府京都市伏見区深草薮之内町68番地 Google Maps
Access Located directly by Inari Station Around a 5-minute walk from Fushimi-Inari Station
Website (Japanese)http://inari.jp
Website (English)http://inari.jp/en/

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Kiyomizu-dera Temple, located in the southern Higashiyama district, is another of Kyoto’s busiest and well-known temples. The main hall’s balcony, or "stage", seems to jut out of the mountainside, and gives a great view of Kyoto and the surrounding mountain forest. The vibrant red maples make a particularly beautiful sight here in the fall.

The main hall with its large stage was once the site of dangerous tradition. In the Edo period, it was said that if you survived the 13-meter jump from the stage, your wish would be granted. Of course, this practice has now been banned, but today you still hear Japanese people using the phrase "jumping from the Kiyomizu stage" to describe someone taking a leap of faith.

Luckily, there are still some safer places to make a wish at Kiyomizu-dera Temple! When you emerge from the main hall, take the stone stairs up to visit Jishu Shrine, which enshrines Okuninushi-no-Mikoto, a god of love and matchmaking. If you’re looking for love, stop and for one of the love-themed charms or fortunes here.

You’ll also see two stones decorated with ceremonial rope 18 meters apart on the central path of the shrine. If you can walk from one stone to the other with your eyes closed, it’s said you’ll find true love. Considering how busy this shrine can get, making the walk can be harder than it might seem!

Name Kiyomizu-dera Temple
Opening hours 6:00 am - 6:00 pm * Closing hours vary seasonally. Please check the official website for an up-to-date schedule.
Closing days None
Price Adults: 400 yen Middle and elementary school students: 200 yen
Address 1-294, Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 京都府京都市東山区清水1-294 Google Maps
Access Around a 25-minute walk from Kiyomizu-gojo Station Around a 10-minute walk from Gojozaka Kyoto City Bus stop (Routes 206, 100)
Website (Japanese)https://www.kiyomizudera.or.jp
Website (English)https://www.kiyomizudera.or.jp/en/

Tenryu-ji Temple

World Heritage Site Tenryu-ji Temple is one of Arashiyama’s most famous sights. The gorgeous Sogen Pond Garden (Sogenchi Teien) here has remained almost unchanged since it was first designed hundreds of years ago, and was the first site in Japan to be designated a Site of Special Historic and Scenic Importance by the Japanese government. The temple itself houses a number of important works of art, and it’s worth paying the small extra fee to access the temple's main building to see the gardens from a different angle while you take in the peaceful atmosphere.

If you enter the temple from the entrance near Hankyu Arashiyama Station and exit from the North Gate, you can head straight into Arashiyama’s famous bamboo forest. This part of the garden is called the Hyakka'en (Garden of a Hundred Flowers), and is a beautiful place to see each season's flowers in bloom. There is also a rest area near the North Gate that looks out over the bamboo forest itself. If there’s a breeze, you can hear the peaceful rustling and crackling soundscape the bamboo forest is known for.

There is also a Japanese vegetarian restaurant called Shigetsu on the premises. With sets starting at 3,300 yen, it’s best for a special meal, but if you want to try Japan’s shojin ryori (Zen temple cuisine), it’s well worth the visit.

Name Tenryu-ji Temple
Opening hours Summer hours: 8:30 am - 5:30 pm (North Gate opens at 9:00 am and closes at 5:00 pm) Winter hours (Oct 21st - Mar 20th): 8:30 am - 5:00 pm (North Gate opens at 9:00 am and closes at 4:30 pm)
Closing days Please check the official website for the latest schedule.
Price Garden only: High school students and older: 500 yen Elementary and middle school students: 300 yen Preschool children: Free Garden and temple entry: Above prices plus 300 yen
Address 68, Susukinobaba-cho, Saga Tenryuji, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 京都府京都市右京区嵯峨天龍寺芒ノ馬場町68 Google Maps
Access Short walk from the Arashiyama Tenryu-ji Mae bus stop on the Kyoto Bus Line (buses 61, 72, or 83) 5-minute walk from Arashiyama Station on the Keifuku Randen (Arashiyama Line) 15-minute walk from Hankyu Arashiyama Station
Website (Japanese)http://www.tenryuji.com
Website (English)http://www.tenryuji.com/en/

Byodoin Temple

Byodoin Temple, located in Uji City to the south of Kyoto City, is a good temple to combine with a visit to Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine, as it’s just a few more stops south on either the JR or Keihan lines.

Byodoin Temple’s Phoenix Hall was built in 1053, and is one of the few wooden structures in Kyoto from the Heian Period that has never needed to be rebuilt after fire or other disaster. This hall is so treasured in Japan, it’s even featured on the 10 yen coin. You must reserve a spot on a guided tour to enter and see the interior architecture and artworks housed within the hall. If tours are booked out for the day, the iconic view of the hall reflected in the Aji-no-Ike pond is worth the entry fee in and of itself.

Byodoin Temple is also a particularly beautiful spot for seasonal flowers. Around Aji-no-Ike pond, there are cherry blossoms in early April and a gorgeous trellis of wisteria plus azaleas in bloom in late April to mid-May. In summer, you can see water lilies and lotus, including a variety of lotus called Byodoin Temple Lotus. This plant was successfully germinated from a single, 200 year-old seed found during an excavation on the grounds, and doesn’t grow anywhere else in the world.

Name Byodoin Temple
Opening hours Gardens: 8:30 am - 5:30 pm Phoenix Hall: 9:30 am - 4:10 pm (Maximum 50 viewers admitted every 20 minutes. Ticketing is on a first-come, first-serve basis from 9:00 am until sold out.) Byodoin Hoshokan Museum: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm (Last admission 4:45 pm)
Closing days None (except for the Tea Room "Sabo Toka" that closes on Tuesdays)
Price Garden and Byodoin Hoshokan Museum: Adults: 600 yen, Middle school students: 400 yen, Elementary school students: 300 yen (Garden tickets are not sold separately) Phoenix Hall: 300 yen
Address 116, Ujirenge, Uji-shi, Kyoto 京都府宇治市宇治蓮華116 Google Maps
Access 10-minute walk from Uji Station
Website (Japanese)https://www.byodoin.or.jp
Website (English)https://www.byodoin.or.jp/en

Sanzen-in Temple

Sanzenin Temple is the lagest temple in Ohara, a rural town to the north of Kyoto City. This temple is part of the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism, and is also known to be a monzeki temple, or a temple where members of the Imperial Family served as priests. This temple has a range of buildings and gardens to explore, also houses a National Treasure, a image of Amida Nyorai flanked by two attendants that was created in the Heian era.

The temple's Guest Hall offers a famous view of the picture-perfect Shuheki-en Garden. Here you can stop for some green tea and a traditional sweet as you take in the pond and landscaped features framed elegantly by the hall's architecture.

Sanzenin is particularly famous among Kyoto locals as a go-to destination for hydrangeas in the spring and beautiful autumn foliage that reaches its peak around a week before the city does. The reds and yellows of the autumn leaves look particularly stunning against the vivid green in the temple's Yusei-en moss garden.

If you're looking to experience Ohara the easy way, you'll find our suggestion for a half-day guided tour from the Kyoto City center that includes Sanzenin and other Ohara highlights below.

Name Sanzen-in Temple
Opening hours March 1st to December 7th: 8:30 am - 5:00 pm December 8th to February 1st: 9:00 am to 4:30 pm
Closing days None
Price General: 700 yen Junior High and High School Students: 400 yen Primary School: 150 yen
Address 540, Raikouin-cho, Ohara, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 京都府京都市左京区大原来迎院町540 Google Maps
Access Take the Route 17 bus bound for Ohara that departs from Kyoto Bus Stop C3 in front of Kyoto Station. 10-minute walk from the Ohara bus stop.
Website (Japanese)http://www.sanzenin.or.jp
Website (English)http://www.sanzenin.or.jp/en

Kyoto Food Culture

Fushimi Sake District Tour

The key to Japan’s most famous sake brewing areas is the quality of the local water. Kyoto Fushimi’s water is said to be perfect for sake thanks to its low iron content and ideal mineral balance, which is created by the underground layer of granite this water filters through.

Whether you’re a diehard sake fan or an absolute beginner, no visit to Kyoto would be complete without trying some of the city’s local sake. An easy way to do this is to explore the area with a guide on a Fushimi Sake District Tour.

This 2.5 hour tour gives you access to Kizakura Fushimigura, one of Fushimi’s best known breweries. You can learn about how high-quality sake is made and try sake pairings with different foods. Experts are on hand to explain the concepts to you in English, so you can leave confident about ordering sake for the rest of your trip!

This tour also takes you around the scenic Fushimi sake brewing area, including the historical buildings and tree-lined canals this area is famous for. This afternoon tour is good to pair with a morning visit to Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine. After the tour, why not take a cruise along the Fushimi canal?


Fushimi Sake District Tour

Start time

Meet at 12:50 pm for 1:00 pm start

Tour duration

2.5 hours

Tour price

7,300 yen / person


Participants must be legal drinking age (20 years) or above

Uji Tea Culture Exploration

Uji in Kyoto’s south is a city that produces some of the most prized matcha (green tea) in Japan. Uji was one of the first areas in Japan to start cultivating the green tea that was first imported from China. Over time, the custom of drinking tea spread through Kyoto’s nobility to the general public to become the staple of Kyoto’s food culture it is today.

Today, Uji is a popular scenic area, well known for its Uji Bridge, known as one of the three most ancient bridges in Japan, Byodoin Temple, and the city's rich tea culture. Many visitors enjoy strolling the riverbanks of the Uji River and trying foods made with the local tea like matcha ice cream and soba noodles.

Name Uji City, Kyoto
Opening hours Open 24 hours
Closing days None
Price Free admission
Address Uji-shi, Kyoto 京都府宇治市 Google Maps
Access Around 20 minutes from Kyoto Station via the JR Nara Line Express
Website (Japanese)http://www.kyoto-uji-kankou.or.jp
Website (English)http://www.kyoto-uji-kankou.or.jp/index-en.html

If you want to escape the city, you can take a tour of different tea fields in Uji and its surrounding tea-growing areas. This is one of the easiest ways to find your way around the more rural areas where tea is grown. Visiting on a tour also gives you access to the private farms themselves, and usually come with tea tasting and other hands-on experiences, too. You can check out an example of Uji tea farm tours here!


Beautiful Kyoto Tea Farm Walking Tour

Start time

10:30 am

Tour duration

4 hours

Tour price

10,235 yen / person

Kyoto Izakaya Restaurant Tour

Kyoto is known for its many elegant, high-end restaurants, but the local izakaya culture is definitely not to be missed. Izakaya are Japanese-style pubs that serve affordable food and drinks in a relaxed environment. As casual as they are, if you’re new in town, it can be hard to know where to go and how to navigate the menus and sake choices.

This is why we recommend the Japanese Izakaya 101 tour via Voyagin. On this two hour tour, you'll meet with a guide who will take you to some of Kyoto’s best izakaya to try local food and sake. Unlike some other pub-crawl style tours, the guides on this tour take the time to teach you how to order, how to choose sake, and all the other basics travelers might need to know. After this tour, you’re sure to feel at home exploring izakaya on your own!

For more details, including pricing and how to book, check out the link below.


Japanese Izakaya 101 Tour

Start time

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: 6:30 pm

Tour duration

2 hours


8,000 yen / person

Atmospheric Walks and Scenic Streetscapes

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Located to the west of the Kyoto city center, Arashiyama is a historical area known for its beautiful natural scenery.The Arashiyama bamboo forest is one of the most iconic sights in Kyoto, and is a must-see when visiting the area any time of year. There are a number of paths through the bamboo forest, but the most popular area starts at the exit of the north gate of Tenryu-ji Temple mentioned above, and extends towards the entrance to Okochi Sanso Villa Garden.

Name Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Opening hours Open 24 hours
Closing days None
Price Free admission
Address Saga Tenryu-ji Susukinobaba-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 京都府京都市右京区嵯峨天龍寺芒ノ馬場町 Google Maps
Access 13-minute walk from JR Saga-Arashiyama Station
Website (Japanese)https://ja.kyoto.travel/tourism/single02.php?category_id=8&tourism_id=2683

Togetsukyo Bridge

Togetsukyo Bridge has been considered the symbol of Arashiyama for hundreds of years. This bridge has been rebuilt a number of times since its first version in 843, and the current bridge was rebuilt in 1934 to recreate the design first built in 1606.The name "Togetsukyo" means "Moon-Crossing Bridge", and it has a poetic origin. It's said that Emperor Kameyama, who reigned from 1260 to 1274, was enjoying a boating party on the river under a full moon when he was moved by the scenery before him to write a poem. In it, he remarked that it seemed as though the moon itself was crossing the bridge. This image clearly resonated with the Kyoto townspeople, as the bridge is still known by this name today.

Today, the sight of the Togetsukyo Bridge backdropped by mountains dotted with cherry blossoms or autumn foliage is one of the most iconic sights in Kyoto.

* Arashiyama is typically only lit up at night during the Kyoto Arashiyama Hanatouro period, which usually takes place every year on March.

Name Togetsukyo Bridge
Opening hours Open 24 hours
Closing days None
Price Free
Address Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 京都府京都市右京区 Google Maps
Access 5-minute walk from Hankyu Arashiyama Station
Website (Japanese)https://www.kyoto-kankou.or.jp/info_search/?id=289&r=1575510758.6828
Website (English)https://kyoto.travel/en/thingstodo/entertainment/112

West Kyoto Electric Bicycle Tours of Rakusai

If the crowds in Arashiyama leave you wanting to get off the beaten track, consider the West Kyoto Electric Bicycle Tours of Rakusai. One of the main attractions of this bicycle tour is getting to cycle through the Rakusai Bamboo Park. Designed to educate the public about bamboo and its importance to Japanese culture, the park—consisting of a museum, bamboo path, and gardens—has over 200 varieties of bamboo from all over the world to see.

On this tour, you’ll also have the chance to visit Oharano Shrine and Nishiyama Yoshimine-dera Temple. Oharano Shrine is a historic shrine built in 784 that is known for its beautiful gardens, especially in the fall. Yoshimine-dera, built on the hillside, is best known for its 600-year-old white pine called Yuryu no Matsu (Frolicking Dragon Pine). Supported on bamboo trellis, this tree gets its name from the fact that it grows almost horizontally, resembling the body of a Japanese dragon. In fact, it's said to have the longest tree branch in Japan.

The Oharano area is definitely a hidden gem in Kyoto, but it's known as a tricky area to navigate. If you want to experience the history, nature, and culture of this little-known area without the hassle, look no further than this tour!


West Kyoto Electric Bicycle Tours of Rakusai

Start time

Rakusai Bamboo Museum Course: 11:00 am
Rakusai Bamboo Park Course: 12:00 pm
Rakusai Adventure Course: 10:00 am

* There is also an Arashiyama Course that starts at 9:00 am.

Tour duration

Rakusai Bamboo Museum Course: 3 hours
Rakusai Bamboo Park Course: 4 hours
Rakusai Adventure Course: 2 hours
Arashiyama Course: 3.5 hours

Tour price

7,500 yen / person

Philosopher's Path

Kyoto’s Philosopher’s Path is a charming walk that runs from the Eikan-do Temple area to the Ginkaku-ji Temple area in northern Higashiyama. This path runs along the Lake Biwa Canal, and gets its name from the fact that Nishida Kitaro, a famous Kyoto philosopher, was said to meditate while walking along this path.

Lined with cherry trees, the Philosopher's Path is beautiful to walk in the spring, but as its name suggests, the seasonal foliage, charming local houses and gardens, and gentle flow of water through the canal makes for a meditative experience no matter the time of year. It should take around half an hour to make your way along the path, but there are some small boutiques and cafes along the way if you want to linger a little longer.

While you're in the area, we also highly recommend taking the time to visit Nanzen-ji Temple. This important Zen temple complex is known for its enormous Sanmon Gate and unique Lake Biwa Canal brick aqueduct, and is located just beyond Eikan-do Temple at the north end of the path.

Name Philosopher's Path
Opening hours Open 24 hours
Closing days None
Price Free admission
Address Between Ginkaku-ji and Nanzen-ji, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 京都府京都市左京区哲学の道 Google Maps
Access 2-minute walk from the Ginkakuji-michi bus stop on the Kyoto City Bus line 5-minute walk from the Miyanomaecho bus stop on the Kyoto City Bus line
Website (Japanese)https://kyototravel.info/tetsugakunomichi
Website (English)http://www.kyototourism.org/en/sightseeing-info/35.html

Hanami Koji

Hanami Koji (Flower-Viewing Lane) is a preserved historical street in Kyoto's Gion area. The main section of this street is found off Shijo Street between Shijo Bridge and Yasaka Shrine, and runs from Shijo Street towards Kennin-ji Temple.

This is a scenic area for a stroll or a meal in one of the cafes and restaurants housed in the historical houses that line the street. As Hanami Koji lies within the Gion Kobu geisha district, in the evenings you might even be lucky enough to see one heading to or from an appointment at one of the traditional tea houses here. Of course, remember that any geisha you do see are professional artists at work, so be sure to respect their privacy and personal space.

One highlight of the street is Ichiriki Chaya, a high end, exclusive tea house where well-connected visitors have enjoyed luxurious meals, famous Japanese hospitality, and geisha performances for over 300 years. Western readers may recognize the name from its role as an important setting in the book and movie Memoirs of a Geisha. While access is by invitation only, its imposing exterior architecture facing Hanami Koji is an interesting glimpse at a landmark of Kyoto's elite.

Name Hanami Koji
Opening hours Open 24 hours
Closing days None
Price Free admission
Address Minami-gawa, Gion-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 京都府京都市東山区祇園町南側 Google Maps
Access Around a 3-minute walk from Gion-Shijo Station
Website (Japanese)https://www.gion.or.jp/around/%E8%8A%B1%E8%A6%8B%E5%B0%8F%E8%B7%AF

Gion Shirakawa Area

Shirakawa is the name of the preserved historical area in Gion that runs along the Shirakawa Canal. Known for its pretty stone-paved streets, traditional townhouses, and willow trees, this area is a beautiful spot that’s very easy to get to from the major sightseeing areas. You’ll find your choice of traditional restaurants and tea houses here, and exploring the area gives a lovely experience of a traditional Gion streetscape. We recommend coming for a walk here in the evenings, as this area takes on a truly special atmosphere when lit by street lanterns.

Tatsumi Daimyojin is a tiny shrine located at the intersection of two of the prettiest streets in the area, Shirakawa Minami-dori and Shimbashi-dori, and is said to be a spot where the local geisha would traditionally pray at while working in the area.

Name Gion Shirakawa
Opening hours Open 24 hours
Closing days None
Price Free admission
Address Motoyoshi-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 京都府京都市東山区元吉町 Google Maps
Access 5-minute walk from Gion-shijo Station 10-minute walk from Sanjo Station 10-minute walk from Kawaramachi Station

Kyoto Day Trips

Ohara Kyoto: Sanzenin Temple, Raigoin Temple & Hosenin Temple

Ohara is a small, rural town located around an hour’s drive north of the Kyoto city center. Famous for its incredible autumn scenery and beautiful temples, it’s an area that’s definitely worth exploring if you’re looking for an experience of rural Kyoto.

As it’s somewhat remote and not connected directly to the city by train, we recommend considering the Ohara Kyoto tour via Voyagin. This five-hour tour takes you to Ohara by chartered taxi, and gives you a chance to enjoy private guided tours and experiences at Sanzenin Temple, Raigoin Temple, and Hosenin Temple.

Sanzenin Temple with ist famous Shuheki-en Garden mentioned previously is Ohara's biggest attraction. The nearby Raigoin Temple was founded as a training site for Buddhist monks in the Shomyo style of ritual chanting. Hosenin Temple displays some interesting contrasts. It has a beautiful, 700-year-old pine tree to see in its gardens, but is also known as one of Kyoto's "bloody" temples, with ceilings made from blood-stained floorboards taken from the original Fushimi Castle.

On this tour, you’ll explore all these beautiful temples and gardens, and have a chance to try some hands-on activities like sutra copying and chanting. You’ll finish your tour with green tea while enjoying the magical view of Hosenin's gardens illuminated in the evening.

For more information about this unique tour, you’ll find all the details at the link below.


Ohara Kyoto Tour

Start time

2:00 pm

Tour duration

5.5 hours


From 24,300 yen

Miyama Thatched House Village (Kayabuki no Sato)

Japan’s most famous thatched roof village is Shirakawa-go in Gifu Prefecture, but not everyone knows that there is another village where you can see this beautiful style of traditional architecture not far from Kyoto City!

Miyama is a thatched house village located around 50 kilometers from the Kyoto city center. Many of these beautifully-preserved houses are open as museums and restaurants, so you’ll have plenty to do as you explore the culture, history, and food of the area. You might find yourself not wanting to go back to the modern world, and luckily enough, you can also stay the night in some of these houses. If you’re with a group, you can even rent out an entire one for yourself!

Name Miyama Thatched House Village
Opening hours Open 24 hours
Closing days None
Price Free admission
Address Miyama-cho, Nantan-shi, Kyoto 京都府南丹市美山町 Google Maps
Access 45 minutes on the Nantan City Bus that departs from Hiyoshi Station
Website (Japanese)https://kyotomiyama.jp/
Website (English)https://kyotomiyama.jp/en/


Amanohashidate is a natural sand bridge that spans Miyazu Bay in northern Kyoto. It's famous for being one of the Three Views of Japan, a list of the three most scenic spots in Japan. Covered in pine trees, the sand bar is beautiful to explore in and of itself, and the view of it from the Kasamatsu Park observatory is stunning. A famous thing to do here is to look at the view upside down by bending forward and looking between your legs. It’s said the view from this angle makes the sandbar look like a dragon rising into the sky.

We've recommended a number Kyoto spots that are beautiful in spring and autumn, but Amanohashidate makes a great summer spot, especially if you're looking for somewhere to swim or enjoy water sports. There are regular events for visitors in the summer months, including sea kayaking, beach yoga, and paddle-boarding. For more information about how to book, check out the link to the Amanohashidate Tourism Association below.

Of course, riding a bike along the sandbar, relaxing in the local hot springs, and trying some of the local, freshly-caught seafood is a relaxing way to enjoy the culture of Kyoto’s coastal areas any time of year!

Name Amanohashidate
Opening hours Open 24 hours
Closing days None
Price Free admission
Address Monju, Miyazu-shi, Kyoto 京都府宮津市文珠 Google Maps
Access A short walk from Amanohashidate Station, which can be reached by taking the JR San'in Main Line from Kyoto Station to Fukuchiyama Station (2 hours), then changing over to the Oeyama 5 rapid train (45 minutes). Get off at Miyazu Station and transfer to the Kyoto Tango Railway's Miyatoyo Line until you reach Amanohashidate Station (6 minutes).
Website (Japanese)https://www.amanohashidate.jp/
Website (English)https://www.amanohashidate.jp/lang/en/

Kurama and Kibune

If you’d like to experience the landscapes and lifestyles of people who live in the mountains that surround Kyoto City, Kurama and Kibune make a great half or full day trip. You can access both small towns on the Kurama line of the Eizan Electric Railway which departs from Demachiyanagi Station. You can take the train between them, or if you prefer, walk the 4 kilometer hiking trail that connects the two towns.

Kurama is known for Kurama-dera Temple, situated on the top of Mt Kurama, a short walk from Kurama Station. The walk to the top is very scenic, with many charming shrines, statues, and natural features like waterfalls to explore. If you prefer, though, you can take a funicular up and down the mountain as well.

Kurama Onsen is another famous destination in the area, and is known in Kyoto for its particularly scenic open-air hot springs.

Kibune is best known for Kifune Shrine, a shrine known for its famous red lantern lined stone stairs leading to the temple and its strong associations with water. You can drink sacred mountain water called "goshinsui" here, and even have your fortune told with water by buying a mizu-ura mikuji. To find out your fortune, just float the paper slip you're given in the temple's sacred water and wait for the text to appear.

Kibune is also known for its quality Japanese restaurants. In the summer, Kibune is one the best places to enjoy the tradition of kawa-doko (sometimes called kawa-yuka), where people dine on platforms built over the river. Here, visitors can enjoy meals while cooling down in the refreshing breeze that rises from the mountain stream.

Name Kurama and Kibune
Opening hours Open 24 hours
Closing days None
Price Free admission * You must pay an admission fee of 300 yen when visiting Kurama-dera Temple. This will be used to help maintain the temple and its surroundings.
Address Kurama Hon-machi, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 京都府京都市左京区鞍馬本町 Google Maps
Access Kurama or Kibuneguchi Stations on the Eizan Electric Railway Kurama Line
Website (Japanese)https://ja.kyoto.travel/okoshiyasu/kibune.html

Kyoto Shopping

Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market is sometimes nicknamed Kyoto’s kitchen, and when you visit this jam-packed shopping street you’ll quickly realize why. Whether you want to try Kyoto’s street food or are just interested in seeing some of the city’s traditional food culture, you’ll be amazed by the range of delicacies on offer here. Recommendations from Nishiki Market include Kyoto-style pickles, or tsukemono, made from local vegetables. The huge range of vegetables and pickling methods can be overwhelming, so be sure to take advantage of the free samples as you browse!

* The streets of Nishiki Market are quite narrow. Please be mindful of others by, for example, not staying in one place for a long time when the market is especially busy.

Name Nishiki Market
Opening hours 9:00 am - 5:00 pm (May vary for certain stores)
Closing days Varies depending on the store
Price Free admission
Address 609, Nishi Daimonji-cho, Shijo-agaru, Tominokoji-dori, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 京都府京都市中京区富小路通 四条上る西大文字町609番地 Google Maps
Access 3-minute walk from Shijo Station 4-minute walk from Kawaramachi Station
Website (Japanese)http://www.kyoto-nishiki.or.jp/

Kawaramachi Shopping Streets

Whether you're shopping for souvenirs, fashion, or local products, you're sure to find what you're after in Kawaramachi, Kyoto's main shopping area. As a general guide, you'll find Kyoto's high-end luxury stores and large department stores along Shijo-dori between Kawaramachi and Karasuma Stations, while the maze-like warren of shopping streets around the Teramachi shopping arcade are a hotspot for stylish fashion boutiques and lifestyle stores.

If you're into Japanese otaku culture, the Shinkyogoku shopping street which runs parallel to Teramachi is known for its game arcades and anime, manga, and video game stores. If you want to know more about these kinds of stores in Kawaramachi, check out our guide to the area here!

Name Kawaramachi, Kyoto
Opening hours Open 24 hours (depending on the store)
Closing days Varies depending on the store
Price Free admission
Address Kawaramachi, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 京都府京都市中京区河原町 Google Maps
Access A short walk from Kawaramachi Station

Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka

Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka are the names of the preserved hill roads that form the path to Kiyomizu-dera Temple. First built around the year 800, these preserved districts still have some of Kyoto's most unspoiled traditional streetscapes.

If you're wanting to buy souvenirs, you won't have to look far in these areas. Here you'll find everything from boutiques selling high-quality local food, crafts, and ceramics, to touristy stores packed to the roof with all the cheap and cheerful souvenirs you could want. Make sure not to overload on souvenirs before you get to Kiyomizu-dera Temple, though!

Name Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka
Opening hours Varies depending on the store
Closing days Varies depending on the store
Price Free admission
Address 2, Kiyomizu, Masuya-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 京都府京都市東山区桝屋町清水2丁目 Google Maps
Access From JR Kyoto Station's Central Exit, take the 206 bus from the D2 bus stop. Get off at the Kiyomizu michi bus stop.
Website (Japanese)http://www.2nenzaka.ne.jp/
Website (English)http://www.2nenzaka.ne.jp/EN/

Kyoto Art and Culture

Minamiza Theater

First founded in 1610 and recently reopened after extensive renovations, Kyoto’s Minamiza Kabuki Theater is one of the best places in Japan to experience kabuki theater. In fact, the kabuki tradition was said to have originated as performances held on makeshift stages on the Kamogawa River banks not far from where the Minamiza Theater stands today.

Kabuki is known for its bold, stylized performances and spectacular costuming and stage design. It originated as a form of popular entertainment, and even today is often said to be the most popular form of Japan’s traditional theater. This speaks to just how lively and entertaining kabuki can be, even to a modern audience. Even if you can’t understand the dialogue, a kabuki performance is a feast for the eyes and ears. While Minamiza Theater also hosts plays and concerts, it’s definitely worth trying to get a ticket to a kabuki performance at this historical theater while you’re in Kyoto.

Name Minamiza Theater
Opening hours Varies depending on the kabuki play
Closing days Varies depending on the kabuki play
Price Varies depending on the kabuki play
Address East side of Shijo-Ohashi Bridge, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 京都府京都市東山区四条大橋東詰 Google Maps
Access A short walk from Exit 6 of Keihan Gion-shijo Station 3-minute walk from Exit 1 of Hankyu Kyoto-kawaramachi Station
Website (Japanese)https://www.shochiku.co.jp/play/theater/minamiza/
Website (English)https://www.kabukiweb.net/theatres/minamiza/

Kyoto National Museum

Kyoto National Museum is one of Japan’s four official national museums, and displays fine art, handicrafts, and archeological artifacts from pre-modern Japan and Asia. There are almost always a number of different exhibits to see here, including rotating displays of the museum’s permanent collection and regular special exhibits.

Even if you’re not particularly knowledgeable about Japanese art, you’re sure to find the classical pieces here beautiful in and of themselves. Since so much about a trip to Kyoto is about appreciating the history of the area, a visit to the Kyoto National Museum gives you a chance to learn a little more about the artistic and cultural background of the other sites you’ll be seeing. When you come to Kyoto, be sure to visit the museum's official website below to see what exhibitions are on!

Name Kyoto National Museum
Opening hours Please check the website below for an up-to-date schedule.
Closing days Please check the website below for an up-to-date schedule.
Price Adults: 520 yen University Students: 260 yen High school age and younger: Free (Access to special exhibitions may require an extra fee.)
Address 527, Chaya-machi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 京都府京都市東山区茶屋町527 Google Maps
Access 7-minute walk from Shichijo Station
Website (Japanese)https://www.kyohaku.go.jp/
Website (English)https://www.kyohaku.go.jp/eng/index.html

Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts Fureaikan

The Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts displays examples of all 74 of the designated traditional industries in Kyoto, with everything from textiles to ceramics and even roof tiles! Workshops and demonstrations are held almost every day, and you can even buy some handmade pieces for yourself. This museum is a great way to get a sense of the scope of the arts and crafts culture in Kyoto.

If you’re looking for a deeper experience of Kyoto’s craft culture, the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts also manages the Kyoto Artisan Concierge. This service connects visitors with local artisans who are willing to open up their studios for visits. If you find yourself drawn to a particular craft while visiting the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts, why not make use of this service to learn more?

Name Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts Fureaikan (Kyoto Museum of Crafts and Design)
Opening hours 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Closing days Closed for renovations (October 1st, 2019 - March 13th, 2020)
Price Free admission
Address B1F, Miyakomesse, 9-1, Okazaki Seishoji-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 京都府京都市左京区岡崎成勝寺町9番地の1 京都市勧業館みやこめっせ 地下1階 Google Maps
Access 10-minute walk from Exit 1 of Higashiyama Station
Website (Japanese)https://kmtc.jp/
Website (English)https://kmtc.jp/en/

Don't Miss Visiting Kyoto!

Kyoto is a city that everyone should visit at least once. But with so much to do here, planning a trip to Kyoto can definitely be a challenge. We hope you can use this introduction to 25 things to do in Kyoto as a starting point for your itinerary. We've definitely just scratched the surface in this article, so if you want to know more, check out our other articles about Kyoto here. As long as you avoid peak travel periods such as the cherry blossom period (late March to early April), the autumn foliage period (late November to early December), and the Gion Festival period (July), we're sure you'll have a grand time exploring Kyoto!

If you want to give feedback on any of our articles, you have an idea that you'd really like to see come to life, or you just have a question on Japan, hit us up on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

Thumbnail: Benny Marty / Shutterstock.com

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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About the author

Rebecca is an Australian translator and writer based in Kyoto. In her downtime she likes train travel, karaoke, and horror movies.

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